Steve Johnson in action during the NCAA team final.
© Bill Kallenberg
University of Southern California standout and two-time NCAA champion Steve Johnson has earned a main-draw wild card into the 2012 US Open. This year, the USTA awarded one men’s singles main-draw wild card into the US Open to the American who earned the most ATP World Tour ranking points at two of four USTA Pro Circuit hard-court events — $50,000 events in Binghamton, N.Y., and Lexington, Ky., and $100,000 events in Vancouver and Aptos, Calif. Johnson earned 100 points by winning the title in Aptos — his first career USTA Pro Circuit Challenger title.
Johnson, 22, of Orange, Calif., cemented his place as one of the greatest all-time collegiate players in 2012, going undefeated in singles to claim his second straight NCAA singles title and leading USC to the fourth team title in his four years at the school. Johnson won two singles titles and one doubles title on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2011, and he pushed top-50 player Alex Bogomolov to five sets in the first round of last year’s US Open as a wild card. Also in 2011, Johnson was named a practice partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team for its quarterfinal tie against Spain in Austin, Texas. He is currently ranked a career-high No. 237 in the world after climbing more than 140 spots in the ATP World Tour Rankings with his win in Aptos.
The USTA first used this tournament-based wild card format for its 2012 Roland Garros wild cards, won by Melanie Oudin and Brian Baker, rather than a traditional wild-card playoff tournament. By using USTA Pro Circuit results, players competed in more matches to develop their games and were also given the opportunity to earn valuable ranking points, whereas the previous playoffs were invitational single-elimination tournaments that did not offer ranking points. This format also allowed all Americans a chance of earning the wild card, rather than a limited field/draw.
Stanford University standout and 2012 NCAA doubles champion Mallory Burdette won the US Open women’s wild card last week by earning the most WTA Tour ranking points at two of three USTA Pro Circuit hard-court events.